Donald Trump is keeping a lot of people up at night. And they are wrestling with scenarios about how and when he is going to fade or go away. The problem is they are leaning on history and conventional wisdom as their crutch. And Trump is turning out to be a crutch kicker.
Donald Trump is not going away any time soon. In fact, he may be here to stay. Here’s why.
Voters have become completely disillusioned with politics because they have been let down so many times.
They don’t believe a word any politician says anymore. And they don’t really care what the outcome of the elections are because they don’t think anyone will keep their word anyway. Voters are at the Network threshold: They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore.
So what better way to express their disgust with the system than to take a very large and sharp stick and poke it in the eye of the body politic. And that stick is Donald Trump.
If there is one thing Donald Trump amplifies and exemplifies more than anyone imaginable, it is utter contempt for the establishment status quo.
When Trump’s support strengthened after the first debate, contrary to what many thought would happen, including me, that’s when I knew we were in new territory. But, it also reminded me of what we always believed during the Bush campaigns: attributes are more important than issues, and the most important attribute is perception of being a strong leader (followed by trust and shared values).
So who or what is going to take Trump down?
Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina are throwing some roundhouse punches. And presumably, a crushing weight of Super PAC attack ads will start falling on Trump.
Sure, the collective beating up will have an impact. Ben Carson may win Iowa. Some other candidate may win New Hampshire. But the reality is that there are a large percentage of voters out there who don’t care that Donald Trump hasn’t been, or isn’t, a solid and consistent conservative.
They don’t even care that they themselves don’t agree with some of his positions. These voters are still going to see Trump as the guy with the big brass clankers who is brash and independent enough—self-funding and therefore not relying on any special interest money—that he is the one and only guy who will create real heartburn for the status quo.
And Trump has money to burn. So unlike other candidates who, in recent years, pushed to the top of polls but then faded because they just didn’t have the money to sustain their flight, Trump can stay in the air refueling forever.
So what’s going to happen?
But that’s the thing about politics: Conventional wisdom gets thrown out the door all the time. And has there ever been a more unconventional presidential candidate than Trump? The weakness of the “Trump fades” theory is that that would mean the voters supporting Trump get un-mad. Or, they find someone else who channels their anger better than Trump, though it’s hard to imagine who that could be.
So I think it’s possible voters have hit their pain threshold and will generate enough heat to keep the Trump flame burning for a long time. More likely than not, Trump actually does go the distance, probably not getting the nomination, but gathering enough delegates that he has to be reckoned with at the convention.
Or, how about this wild scenario: Trump actually starts to get enough delegates to win the nomination. Then, irony of ironies, rather than Trump running as a third party, the GOP establishment decides to pull a Roosevelt, and re-creates the Republican Party under an independent banner.
And (1) because all the candidates currently running pledged at the main-stage debate to support the nominee of the GOP (though certainly not binding), and (2) because it would difficult and messy to choose among the Republicans running, and (3) because those running would be out of money, the obvious choice to step in and save the day as the independent candidate would be—drum roll—Mitt Romney.
Bottom line, one way or the other, at the end of this election, there will likely be a Trump factor that affects the outcome. Because he’s waving the one-finger salute at Washington at a time when that is exactly the message much of America wants to send.